We are the people with the sheet on the couch.
Those sad defeated souls who just don't care anymore. That's who we are now, who we've been since Zoe was born.
If an unsuspecting guest should peer beneath that in-itself stained sheet to view the stains below, those stains and desiccated muffin crumbs will tell a story, a dried and crusty story of bodily fluids and a disobedient toddler.
The stains on our couch are a narrative of Zoe's life from birth to almost three years. They can be indexed by type and by Zoe's stage of development. There are even subcategories. For instance: liquids, in infancy: formula. Formula is the worst. Impossible to get out of fabric. Yet it's good in that it lays the emotional groundwork for letting go of the dream (of a clean couch). It's the ripping-the-Band-Aid-off of stains. You know in your heart there's no turning back after that first spill of milky white not-milk.
Also under liquids we have: spit-up (small but not sparse), vomit (copious), regular milk, pureed baby food, then juice, then yogurt. Next we mark the crossover into solid food with technicolor stains, everything from tomato sauce to the mac and cheese Zoe was instructed not to eat on the couch, but did, and dropped it, and then tried to hide the evidence by rubbing it in further with her grubby hands.
Indexed under most regrettable, there are the post-meal stains, the pee and even, yes, the other.
Among the miscellaneous . . .
1. Non-food stains (shout-out here to Play-Doh!)
2. Our own food and drink spills due to tiredness
3. Chalky residue from couch cleaning products (the nontoxic "green" products to the heavy duty ozone-layer destroying ones employed when the nontoxic ones proved ineffective)
4. Blood (Zoe's, from when she jumped off the couch and cut her lip)
5. Tears (mine)
6. Dark matter (the universe's).
7. And lest we forget, cat hair, because now that we've finally put a sheet down the cat can be comfortable, perhaps choke up a hairball
Take a picture of our couch and it could be featured in Country Living with a Meth Addict magazine.
But all this destruction is hardly limited to the couch or even the living room. Zoe's crib is covered in teethmarks. The experts on the Web said, teething. I saw it for what it was: an escape attempt.
We had to move the hardcover books up higher on the bookshelves because Zoe likes to remove the jackets and hide them. Or rip them. Or eat them. Those poor Norton anthologies from college have had an especially tough go of it, their onionskin pages unable to withstand handling by Zoe.
Also, once a week I walk around on my knees to see what new crayon artwork Zoe's added to the walls. Those geniuses at Crayola came up with washable crayons, so this can be fixed. If I feel like it. Motivation is low.
The solid tan rug is now orange and gray with an occasional smattering of ground-in Cheerios.
But it's the couch that's borne the brunt. Somehow the stains are brighter in pictures. In the normal dull light we don't see them as much. But in pictures it's like CSI: Toddler, where one of those UV lights picks up what must have been a violent struggle between Zoe and a plate of spaghetti.
I believe I'm starting to understand why some of my elderly Italian relatives went the plastic-on-the-furniture route. Tacky home decorating or wisdom of the ages? Italians were known for having lots of children. If they saw a family with eight children they'd wonder, why so few? And children are hard on furniture.
I suppose the difference between plastic and a sheet is people laughing at you or crying for you. A toss-up, at best.
I'll just have to wait till Zoe's in high school to buy a new couch. I'll be sure to get one that matches the cat hair.
Zoe: 6; Universe: 0